Things I Find Oddly Amusing or Curious

I have puzzled over this question for years: The US Coast Guard calls most of its ships, ‘cutters.’ But, what is a ‘cutter’?

Thank the Lord for the internet I say, since one need only google something and shazaam – the answer appears, in this case from the official US Coast Guard History Site.

US Coast Guard History Site
“The Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, referred to its ships as cutters. The term is English in origin and refers to a specific type of vessel, namely, “a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail.” (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) The Royal Navy’s definition of a cutter was a small warship capable of carrying 8 to 12 cannons. By general usage, the term cutter came to define any vessel of Great Britain’s Royal Customs Service and the term was adopted by the US Treasury Department at the creation of what would become the Revenue Marine. Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the service has referred to its largest vessels as cutters (today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65-feet in length).”

So now I know and so do you. I don’t know anyone in the Coast Guard but if I did I would tell them that I think almost every American, including me, is proud of them and in awe of some of the things they do to rescue people.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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